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August 22nd, 2013
03:07 PM ET

Gay detective's mother booted from church

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
[twitter-follow screen_name='EricCNNBelief']

(CNN)–The mother of a gay detective has been booted from the Tennessee church she attended for decades.

Elders at Ridgedale Church of Christ told Linda Cooper and two relatives that their public support for Kat Cooper, Linda Cooper's gay daughter, went against the church's teachings, local media reported. In a private meeting, reports say, Linda Cooper was given a choice: publicly atone for their transgressions or leave the church.

Linda left the church.

Kat Cooper is a detective with the Collegedale Police Department. This month, she fought successfully for health benefits for her same-sex spouse, Krista, from the town.

The Board of Commissioners passed a resolution allowing for same-sex partner benefits, becoming the first city in Tennessee to do so.

Along the way, the mother publicly supported her daughter. That support appears to have led to a rift with her church.

"My mother was up here and she sat beside me. That's it," Kat Cooper told the Times Free Press of Chattanooga. "Literally, they're exiling members for unconditionally loving their children - and even extended family members."

"Her answer to them ... is that she had committed no sin in her mind. Loving her daughter and supporting her family was not a sin," Kat Cooper's father, Hunt Cooper, told CNN affiliate WTVC. "There was nothing to repent about. They certainly couldn't judge her on that because that was between her and her God, and it was not their place to judge her for that."

"The sin would be endorsing that lifestyle," Ken Willis, a minister at Ridgedale Church of Christ, told to the Times Free Press. "The Bible speaks very plainly about that."

The news enflamed the passions of critics and supporters of the church's action.

A phony Facebook page for the church was created by one critic, who posted glib messages affirming same-sex marriage shortly after the controversy went viral. "There's nothing about girl on girl in Leviticus," one post reads.

Mary Sturdibint, a Collegedale resident, told WTVC, "I don't think they should be kicked out of church. If you're going to kick out someone, it needs to be the two that are same-sex that's married. I do believe in that."

Willis declined an on-camera interview with WTVC but released a written statement.

"This is an in-church private issue. Because emotions are so inflamed at this point, I choose not to comment any further," it read.

"The church is overseen by elders. I am a minister, not a pastor and therefore, do not have the authority to speak further on this. The news is getting mixed reviews."

Multiple calls to the church and the Coopers by CNN were not returned.

Church of Christ structure

What happens next for the small suburban church remains unclear.

There is no denomination to hand down an edict praising or condemning the local church's decision.

Churches of Christ are a loosely joined group of independent churches that are autonomous by design. There is no denominational oversight, formal structure or even a denomination headquarters.

Local churches are governed by appointed elders in a structure the church traces to the early followers of Jesus described in the New Testament, said Ronald Highfield, a professor of religion at Pepperdine University.

"They're organized in congregations with their own local leadership so that no other congregation, no set of congregations, no convention can exercise any ecclesiastical discipline over another congregation," said Highfield, who is also an elder in his local Church of Christ congregation.

While there are no documents or position papers by the church on the issue of homosexuality and how members ought to interact with lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender family members, he said that on the issue of sexual orientation, churches in the denomination fall on a spectrum from progressive to conservative.

Most churches, Highfield said, hold a traditional Christian belief that sex is to be reserved for married men and women and that sex outside of that marriage arrangement is wrong, regardless of what the church believes about sexual orientation.

"There is an implicit covenant when you're a member of a congregation to adhere to the scriptures and the authority," he said.

So, he said, supporting a view that could be seen as undermining the teaching of the church could be grounds for excommunication.

Highfield was unfamiliar with this particular congregation until the story broke and said as for its decision, "whether it's just or fair, I'm not going to make a judgment."

Not a new issue

For decades, churches have wrestled with the issue of homosexuality, leading to splits and schisms of individual congregations and entire churches.

Some churches, like the Episcopal Church, have shifted from the traditional Christian position on marriage to now bless monogamous same-sex unions and perform same-sex marriages in states where they are legal.

While churches that have formally shifted their policies on same-sex marriage are in the minority, Americans' opinion of such marriage has shifted significantly from opposition to support.

A CNN/ORC poll conducted in June, when the Supreme Court was deciding the fate of the Defense of Marriage Act and the validity of a California law banning same-sex marriage, 55% of Americans said marriages between gay or lesbian couples should be recognized as valid. That marked an 11-point swing from 2008, when 44% of Americans said the unions should be legal.

The public outcry about the exile of the parents of a gay adult child from this Tennessee congregation seems to mirror this shift in public opinion.

Some pollsters and commentators have pointed to tension about same-sex marriage as a reason for an exodus from churches, particularly among young people.

Many mainline Protestant churches have seen a decline in membership, while pollsters have noted a steady increase in "nones," or people saying they have no religious affiliation. In its latest surveys, the Pew Forum on Faith and Public life puts "Nones" at 20% of the population.

Pew has also noted that at the same time younger Americans are leaving churches, older Americans are returning in a pattern that matches historical trends that have shown people become more religious as they get older.

Because there is no central office for Churches of Christ, reliable numbers on membership are difficult to come by.*

When the Ridgedale congregation next updates its membership rolls, it will be crossing out the Coopers. The family told the local newspaper they were devastated to leave a church where they had been active for 60 years.

For now, both the Coopers and their former church are standing by their own convictions, and after six decades of traveling together, they are heading in different directions.

 

*Update

Difficult, but not impossible. There are 12,438 Church of Christ congregations in the United States with 1.55 million adherents according to publisher 21st Century Christian's annual "Churches of Christ in the United States" which they have compiled since the 1970s.
H/t @BobbyRoss

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church • Gay marriage • Gay rights

soundoff (3,329 Responses)
  1. Dyslexic doG

    IMAGINARY NEWS ALERT

    Ken Willis, minister at Ridgedale Church of Christ, and Pastor: Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church were found in bed together in a seedy Las Vegas hotel. When questioned, they admitted to planning to be wed on sunday.

    August 23, 2013 at 9:09 am |
  2. tom

    How very Christian of them.

    August 23, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • ed dugan

      There is nothing "christian" about christians. They are bigoted, small-minded, hypocrytical and stupid. They are an abomination that is thankfully on the decline. If Jesus were to come back, something I doubt very much, he would take one look at them and their cathedrals of ignorance and vomit!

      August 23, 2013 at 9:15 am |
  3. Anthony Roberts

    Bravo to this church for following Christ's teachings. Jesus taught that we should absolutely shun sinners and should always look to point out the faults in others before addressing the faults in ourselves, and that we should ostracize and shun those who aren't perfect.

    They've not only expelled a lifelong member, they've also led by example and shown others how to be good Christians. And their message of exclusion is bound to attract more souls to their flock. Kudos!

    August 23, 2013 at 9:07 am |
    • tom

      You have much to learn of Christ's teachings.

      August 23, 2013 at 9:09 am |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

        I think it was meant to be facetious.

        August 23, 2013 at 9:12 am |
      • scott

        and you have much to learn about sarcasm.

        August 23, 2013 at 9:15 am |
      • a reasonable atheist

        I believe the comment was soaked in sarcasm.

        August 23, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      love the irony

      August 23, 2013 at 9:12 am |
  4. moi

    the bible also says things like you can sell your daughters into slavery or you can stone your neighbor to death for offensive smells ...

    August 23, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      That second one makes sense. An old neighbor of mine stank. Some Biblical justice would have been helpful.

      August 23, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • John Sharp

      Yea, so true. If this god did exist he would be a psychopath.

      August 23, 2013 at 9:11 am |
  5. Cal

    I can respect someone for standing by thier convictions, but churches these days really should think about how fair it is to everyone in thier congregation to perform an action that is guaranteed to generate a lot of unwanted negative media coverage.

    August 23, 2013 at 9:00 am |
  6. WakeUpPlze

    Not sure why this is even a story. Those that hate religion, should mind their own business and look the other way. The Atheists want religion abolished from our culture, so they make a prominent stand on the separation of church and state. So, no law can, should, or will prevent the church from doing what they want, period. That is the way it should be. The church teaches that being gay is a sin. If you dont believe that, your choice. But, it is also the churches choice to not allow people that dont believe what they preach to leave. Not a story at all. Just another story to create hatred amongst the masses.

    August 23, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      Who says I want religion abolished?

      August 23, 2013 at 9:01 am |
      • Dyslexic doG

        I do, I do!!!

        August 23, 2013 at 9:04 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          As in legally?

          August 23, 2013 at 9:05 am |
        • Fbuh

          So let me get this straight, Dyslexic doG, you want something abolished becaue you don't agree with it, and therefore the whole world should change? Doesn't that seem a little hypocritical?

          August 23, 2013 at 9:09 am |
        • Dyslexic doG

          there are a number of existing substances that addle some people's minds and cause harm to other people. I would like those substances banned.

          religion is a virus that addles addle some people's minds and causes harm to other people. I would like that virus banned.

          August 23, 2013 at 9:18 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          Seriously, anybody who wants religion banned can go fudge themselves with a rubber hose.

          August 23, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      the bible is "Just another story to create hatred amongst the masses".

      August 23, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • future

      Christ teach to love and accept and you teach hate.

      August 23, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • shipwreck73

      CNN thinks it's a story so how about you go pray on it.

      August 23, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • ed dugan

      I am an athiest and I certainly do not want religion abolitshed. How else are we going to identify the truly stupid from those of us that are reasonable and think for ourselves. That cathedral of ignorance you call a church and that book of christian fiction called the bible are great examples of how not to live your life.

      August 23, 2013 at 9:18 am |
    • Sokesky

      SOME churches teach that being gay is a "sin"; others don't. The churches that do are likely the same churches that used to shun interracial couples.

      August 23, 2013 at 9:21 am |
  7. Doc Vestibule

    That has got to be a small congregation if they don't let in those who support sinners.

    August 23, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • a reasonable atheist

      Indeed. I'm sure it is safe to as.sume their membership role does not include a single divorcee or shellfish eater as well.

      August 23, 2013 at 9:21 am |
  8. Dyslexic doG

    If I perform a few sleight of hand magic tricks in front of some gullible crowds and then say I am the light and then get a few of my friends to say I died and then they saw me rise up to heaven, does that make me the son of god? would everyone then believe every silly thing I said? would my followers then persecute others based on their selective interpretations of those words?

    what a crock!!!

    August 23, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      worked for jesus, worked for joseph smith, worked for l. ron hubbard, ...

      August 23, 2013 at 8:57 am |
      • a reasonable atheist

        You can't see the golden tablets because you lack faith. I.E., your doubt is your fault. I call it a proof loop™!

        August 23, 2013 at 9:24 am |
  9. K-switch

    Can a church actually ban someone? Exactly how do you legally enforce keeping some from entering a church, call the police? For this church's situation, good luck calling the cops.

    August 23, 2013 at 8:56 am |
  10. RX8

    Do not fret. The House of Lord surrounds you if you believe! You need not enter a house of prejudice and fear to love your God.

    August 23, 2013 at 8:55 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      LOLOLOL ... good one! 🙂

      August 23, 2013 at 8:58 am |
  11. jackieg

    Why would anyone want to be part of a narrow-minded, judgmental church like that. They are justifying their actions with Leviticus, which is the Old Testament. Christians live according to the teachings of Jesus, the New Testament. Jesus taught us to love one another unconditionally and not to judge.

    August 23, 2013 at 8:54 am |
  12. RickintheCity

    Oh great! That last one posted, of course! I was just trying to say how stupid this crap is! Mythology is what all religion is! We let go of the Greek, Roman and Norse myths about god so it's time to let go of this "Christian" one too!!

    August 23, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      amen!

      August 23, 2013 at 8:59 am |
  13. future

    There has never been a conclusive study of whether Jesus was gay.

    August 23, 2013 at 8:53 am |
  14. RickintheCity

    Why are my comments not posting CNN??????!!!!!

    August 23, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • midwest rail

      Automatic word and/or word fragment filter.

      August 23, 2013 at 8:54 am |
      • RickintheCity

        Thank you!

        August 23, 2013 at 8:55 am |
  15. formendoradan

    why can't we just live and let live? i don't need any bigots translating for me.

    August 23, 2013 at 8:51 am |
  16. Mammasboy

    The church has the right to do whatever they feel according to their principles. Maybe they'll push out enough people and we can get a coalition together to change the tax laws and stop giving ANY of them ANY tax deductions. Then when they preach about who to vote for and what laws that don't want to follow, their churches will be filled with like-minded people who will have to foot-the-bill for their own religious views. Bet they'd get quiet real quick...

    August 23, 2013 at 8:48 am |
    • liz

      yep

      August 23, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • RickintheCity

      Amen brother!

      August 23, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • sosideirish

      Exactly. The Church (whichever one it is) sticks its nose into places it doesn't belong. Bottom line: God loves ALL his children. It's time that the churches (and members) supported themselves and their beliefs without the help of tax breaks, etc. I don't think the government should be helping them.

      August 23, 2013 at 9:04 am |
  17. JB1963

    Money, Oil, and especially Religion=The root of ALL evil.

    August 23, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • 1word

      Religion is not the root of all evil. Jesus said he is a light. Without Jesus we all would be in darkness.

      August 23, 2013 at 8:49 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Do you believe Ja/pan lives in darkness becuase they're not the least bit Christian?
        What about all the people in the entire world who lived before Christ?

        Woe betide those who reject the word of (INSERT DEITY) in (INSERT HOLY BOOK) for they shall never know the divine reward awaiting them in (INSERT AFTERLIFE).

        August 23, 2013 at 8:55 am |
        • 1word

          Yes

          August 23, 2013 at 8:59 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Countries with a high percentage of nonbelievers are among the freest, most stable, best-educated, and healthiest nations on earth. When nations are ranked according to a human-development index, which measures such factors as life expectancy, literacy rates, and educational attainment, the five highest-ranked countries - Norway, Sweden, Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands - all have high degrees of nonbelief. Of the fifty countires at the bottom of the index, all are intensly religious. The nations with the highest homicide rates tend to be more religious; those with the greatest levels of gender equality are the least religious.

          August 23, 2013 at 9:01 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          Give me Australia any day. The other four are full of lefties.

          August 23, 2013 at 9:06 am |
        • a reasonable atheist

          I wouldn't exactly call Oz "full of righties." They enacted comprehensive gun control to great effect and also have universal healthcare.

          August 23, 2013 at 9:28 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          They're the best of a bad bunch.

          August 23, 2013 at 9:32 am |
      • Dyslexic doG

        If I do a few sleight of hand magic tricks in front of some gullible crowds and then say I am the light and then get a few of my friends to say I died and then they saw me rise up to heaven, does that make me the son of god? would everyone then believe every silly thing I said? would my followers then persecute others based on their selective interpretations of those words?

        what a crock!!!

        August 23, 2013 at 8:55 am |
      • Scott

        Sorry, the Sun would exist without the Son.

        August 23, 2013 at 9:00 am |
      • ReligionPoisonsEVERYTHING

        Yes, religion is evil otherwise priests and clergy wouldn't tell people to treat people this way. Or blow then up because they don't follow the same god they do.

        August 23, 2013 at 10:00 am |
  18. 1word

    I don't agree with the Church stance, but a lot of churches are struggling with order because there is a lot of people who refuse to submit to Gods authority in the church. When that happens, you have a lot of unruly people in the church and that causes problems. Anyone that is Gay who is seeking the Lord would pray and ask God if their lifestyle is pleasing in his sight. If it's not which his word validates, then they should ask God to cure them of their issue. It's the people who don't lean on Jesus for healing that ends up causing others to fall with them and that's why the churches are taking a stand.

    August 23, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      Really? Maybe you should talk to God about healing the people who have cancer first before spouting off against people who support or are gay.

      August 23, 2013 at 8:48 am |
      • 1word

        Yes Jesus can heal you from being Gay. Being Gay is sin, Jesus cures sin.

        August 23, 2013 at 8:53 am |
        • G to the T

          Wow... just wow.

          August 23, 2013 at 8:57 am |
        • T

          You have got to be kidding me!

          August 23, 2013 at 9:19 am |
        • John

          pparently he can't heal stupid...

          August 23, 2013 at 9:26 am |
        • truthprevails1

          You do know therapy to heal them has been outlawed in most states because it is a well know fact that LGBT is not something one can be cured of. Your ignorance on the other hand might be curable with a little 21st century education.

          August 23, 2013 at 10:34 am |
    • bob baden

      "Ask God to cure them of their condition"....ah, you might want to practice what you preach. People are born gay. People are not born bigots. Hate is something learned. You might want to look into that with a professional.

      August 23, 2013 at 8:49 am |
      • 1word

        God made man and woman to be together. Sin caused man and woman to want to change that. We're all born in sin, and Jesus is the only way to conquer sin. Yes, Jesus can heal someone from being GAY! Check Youtube, there's plenty of Testimonies there.

        August 23, 2013 at 8:53 am |
        • bob baden

          You are a sick individual. Bigotry can be cured. AGAIN-look into it.

          August 23, 2013 at 9:00 am |
        • FreeThinker

          You scare me...

          August 23, 2013 at 9:13 am |
        • a reasonable atheist

          Is Sin someplace near Des Moine? I wasn't born there. I was born in a hospital in central Pennsylvania.

          August 23, 2013 at 9:31 am |
      • sosideirish

        Thanks, Bob. You're so right.

        August 23, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • Sokesky

      Ah, c'mon. There are divorced people in the church, people having affairs, people who had kids out of wedlock, thieves, liars, people who have committed every sin under the sun. A gay lifestyle is pretty visible compared to some of these. I have yet to hear of liars being kicked out of the church, or cheaters; they're just picking on the people who are different. There is NOTHING in the Bible about gay women, and very little about gay men.

      August 23, 2013 at 8:49 am |
      • 1word

        There are a lot of people playing church but only a few actually trying to be the church. There is a difference.

        August 23, 2013 at 8:50 am |
        • Johnny

          Actually since the Christian god doesn't exist all Christians are just playing church.

          August 23, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
      • CosmicC

        That's perfectly logical, and that's why no church will pay attention.

        August 23, 2013 at 9:01 am |
      • bob baden

        Not to mention the priests. Oh your sacred priests with their busy little hands.

        August 23, 2013 at 9:03 am |
      • Try Again

        Sokesky, since you chose to highlight it ("NOTHING"), you should see Romans 1:26-27 "Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion."

        For the record, though, I disagree with what this church is doing–not very Christ-like.

        August 23, 2013 at 9:12 am |
        • NickZadick

          I fail to understand how quoting myths and parables is relevant??

          August 23, 2013 at 9:42 am |
        • Try Again

          Nick...you can't possibly be that stupid! Sokesky was telling us that there was (his emphasis) "NOTHING" in the Bible about Lesbians. All I did (since he chose to emphasize his ignorance) was show that he was wrong–that is what makes my post relevant. Ta da!

          August 23, 2013 at 10:38 am |
        • NickZadick

          sorry 🙁 my bad

          August 23, 2013 at 10:41 am |
        • Try Again

          Oversights happen–admitting them is what shows character.

          August 23, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • Whatever!!

      People don't need religion or lean on Jesus as some of you self-righteous Christians like to say. What people need is compassion for all and which many strong Christians lack

      August 23, 2013 at 9:00 am |
      • dexter

        Like the compassion you are showing towards Christians?

        August 23, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • Madtown

      It's the people who don't lean on Jesus for healing
      -----
      And, if you've never heard of Jesus, who are you supposed to lean on to heal your incorrect lifestyle choices?

      August 23, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • NickZadick

      your level of brainwashing is EPIC! your book of fairy tales is fiction!

      August 23, 2013 at 9:32 am |
  19. Blackcurry

    Who would want to be a member of a "church" that excludes people based on human prejudices. This church is not Christian. In fact, I don't believe most congregations who claim to be Christian understand the concept of what that means.

    August 23, 2013 at 8:43 am |
  20. chbaca

    Good for that church!!! Christians need to be firm in their denunciation of this abominable SIN!! http://www.gaydeceit.info

    August 23, 2013 at 8:42 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.